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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Savages’ mixes comedy with drama

    Dysfunctional siblings Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman, left) and Wendy (Laura Linney) are the focus of The Savages.
    Dysfunctional siblings Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman, left) and Wendy (Laura Linney) are the focus of ‘The Savages.’

    “”The Savages”” refers to the name of a peculiar, yet heartbreakingly average family and the struggle to keep it together during the father’s dying months. The film is narrated by superb brother and sister duo Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Wendy (Laura Linney), who carry the movie along perfectly.

    The Savages remain rather distant from each other in the beginning; dad Lenny (Philip Bosco) lives with his common-law wife and their live-in caretaker in Sun City, Ariz., while Jon and Wendy indulge in their very eccentric, yet very different behavior in New York.

    Wendy is a self-diagnosed anxious depressive, who spends her days temping in New York City and writing grants hoping to get her play funded. Wendy is also having an affair with her married neighbor and is prone to spouting rather dramatic lies at inappropriate times when she’s not stealing office supplies.

    “”The Savages””
    Rated R – 113 mins.
    Fox Searchlight
    3 1/2 stars

    Jon resides in Buffalo, where he teaches dramatic plays and writes obscure books in the most self-important way possible. Prone to fits of obsessive-compulsiveness and involuntary weeping, Jon refuses to marry his girlfriend of four years, which causes her to be deported to her native Poland.

    Lenny, the unstable, ill-equiped father was left by his wife early on, leaving him to screw up the children on his own.

    When Lenny’s girlfriend dies he slowly slips into dementia, causing Jon and Wendy to fly to sunny, surreal Arizona to get him. Bitter, confused and depressed, the Savages are reunited at last. What ensues is the children’s struggle to care for the father who could care for them, and the audience watches as all the characters are forced to grow up in the most unsympathetic of ways.

    While the plot is rather simple, it’s the in-depth look at the complex, yet somehow average characters that allow “”The Savages”” to stand out as one of the best films of the new year. The family’s eccentric behavior and perfectly written lines add some much-needed humor to their bleak situation in snow-filled, gray New York, but underneath their odd behavior, the audience can see the vulnerability of two kids who were never treated like kids and their unshakable bond.

    Details are revealed in subtle ways, and at times the plot drags along. “”The Savages”” is not for the impatient, but those who take the time to watch will become intimately involved in the characters’ uphill battles with their family, places in life and themselves.

    Simply put, a must-see.

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